The San Salvador under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, arrived at the port we now call San Diego on September 28, 1542, before proceeding further north in search of new trade routes that would link Mexico to Asia and Europe. She was the first recorded European vessel to sail along Southern California, and survey its coastline. Her expeditionaries established a generally friendly first contact with the indigenous peoples of that coast. The San Salvador must be considered the founding ship of San Diego and of the State of California. As such she functions as an "origin symbol" ship for San Diego in much the same way as the Mayflower is the origin symbol ship of New England. Her story represents the beginning of a common heritage for the peoples of California, both past and present.
Recognizing the iconic nature of the San Salvador and her profound importance for the history and cultures of the West Coast of North America, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has embarked on an ambitious project - the construction of an historically accurate replica. This construction is now underway at Spanish Landing, on San Diego Bay, right next to the San Diego International Airport. Visitors are welcome to tour the build-site every day of the year.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego's construction of the San Salvador is based on painstaking research in the fields of Early Modern Spanish and Portuguese maritime history, and maritime archaeology. Experts have scoured volumes of historical narratives, examined all the available images of early-sixteenth-century sailing vessels, and surveyed the remains of contemporary shipwrecks. They believe that the new San Salvador will be a highly accurate representation of the vessel that arrived at San Diego in 1542. To execute this vision, the Maritime Museum has engaged a group of skilled professional boat builders, who are assisted by scores of regular volunteers.
The new San Salvador will function much more than just a static museum display. Home-ported in San Diego, she will also sail along the coast of California, visiting its cities and towns as a floating education platform for California's school children.